Q & A from Build the ELL Brain

  1. Does the Fast ForWord® program help with native language delays?
    1. The Fast ForWord program helps build the whole language network in the brain.  In doing so, it improves the brain’s ability to process language and thereby helps the development of both the native language and any second language (such as English).
  2. What age range is the Fast ForWord program good for?
    1. For English Language Learners, the program can be started as early as age five.  There is no upper age limit for program use.
  3. What about kids without basic literacy?
    1. Students can benefit even if they are not reading in either their native or their second language. Two of the products that are particularly appropriate for English language learners (Fast ForWord Language for students in elementary schools and Fast ForWord Literacy for students in secondary schools) focus on sounds and oral language, and have no written letters.  These are appropriate starting points for students who are not yet literate.
  4. Is there progress monitoring and data to support the program?
    1. Yes. A great strength of the Fast ForWord program is the ability of educators to monitor each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Every grammatical error the student makes is recorded, as well as every error in speech sound discrimination, vocabulary confusion, listening and reading comprehension.  Each student’s responses on every item are included in a report.
  5. What about special needs students who are second language learners?
    1. The Fast ForWord program was originally designed for use with special needs children but has been found to be extraordinarily effective with ELL students. The original group of study participants included students with developmental language problems of one kind or another that could be associated with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, and specific language impairments. All these groups of special needs children benefited from the Fast ForWord program. The only caveats are that the child needs to have language skills in their native language of at least a three-year-old, and the child must be able to use a computer or iPad with headphones.
  6. What about adults?
    1. The Fast ForWord program can be used with adults, as well.
  7. Is there funding available for schools?
    1. Schools have used a variety of funds to purchase Fast ForWord software including Title I funds, Innovative Technology funds, and Special Ed funds. Schools have also successfully written grants to get funding. For children using the program outside of school, Medicaid may fund the program in some states.
  8. Is there a pretest that can be administered to know where to begin?
    1. When the program is used in a school setting, there is an assessment called Reading Progress Indicator that typically runs automatically when students initiate use (although it can be turned off during enrollment).   This assessment evaluates a student’s early reading skills and determines whether the student has a reading discrepancy.  Coupled with the student’s current grade level and education classification, this determines where in the program the child should start.  As long as the auto placement option has been selected, the program will place the student at that point and continue to move them onto the next product within the Fast ForWord program as appropriate.    
  9. Does it work on all modalities – reading, writing, listening and speaking?
    1. The Fast ForWord program and Reading Assistant software work directly on reading, speaking and listening. Although there are no actual writing exercises that use pen and paper, research has shown improvement in writing. For information on this specific research, please see our website (Results: Research and Independent Reviews: Rogowsky (2010)).
  10. Is this a program people can access at home or just at school?
    1. You can access the Fast ForWord program at home or school. The three ways through which the program can be accessed are:
      1. School district that is using the Fast ForWord program;
      2. Clinical professional who is trained on the Fast ForWord program and using it, such as a speech and language pathologist.  Trained professionals can be found on the Search for a Provider page; or
      3. BrainPro online service, which combines the Fast ForWord program with the services of a professional consultant. Learn more about the BrainPro service.
  11. Can this program be compared to the Rosetta Stone program?
    1. Rosetta Stone teaches language through sentence structure. A student sees a picture and hears a word or sentence that goes with the pictures. Rosetta Stone does not have specific training in speech sound discrimination by itself and doesn’t have specific training in grammar by itself. The Fast ForWord program complements Rosetta Stone by developing some of the necessary foundational skills including the ability to discriminate between sounds and the ability to identify specific phonemes.  English language learners would ideally start on the Fast ForWord program and then move to Rosetta Stone after completing at least the first two Fast ForWord products. 
  12. Do you know how the Fast ForWord program compares to other products?
    1. The Fast ForWord program was developed by neuroscientists.  The entry point for English language learners focuses on speech sound perception as opposed to formally teaching a language the way you might in a classroom.   As such, it complements many other programs (such as Rosetta Stone), enhancing their effectiveness, rather than replicating them.
  13. I’m an Occupational Therapist and wonder what specific consideration needs to be taken for students with autism?
    1. There is a wide variety of levels of autism but most students with autism love computers, iPads, and other types of technology.   Therefore, they warm up very quickly to Fast ForWord product use. When working with students on the spectrum, it is important that the student be able to attend to a computer program for at least ten minutes at a time. It is also important to check that the student has the skills needed to be able to use the iPad or computer keyboard, and that they can correctly press the arrow keys, use a mouse, or point to the tablet. Students should have the receptive language skills of at least a three-year-old in either English or their native language.
    2. Occupational Therapists can become Fast ForWord providers with the ability to administer programs directly to students. Occupational Therapists make wonderful providers and are encouraged to contact Scientific Learning for more information.
  14. Is the Reading Assistant program helpful for strengthening literacy?
    1. Yes, the Reading Assistant program is a literacy product. Students start working with real text leveled around mid-first grade. Initially, students have the stories or the content read to them while they look at a printed page and see the words and phrases highlighted as they are read by the computer. The students then read aloud the text themselves. In order to use the Reading Assistant program, children must be able to correctly read 25 words per minute.  For students who use it, Reading Assistant is a wonderful tool for building fluency, reading vocabulary, and comprehension.
  15. What is the best age for teaching a second language to benefit the development of the second language?
    1. Birth to seven is generally the time when it is easiest to learn and become proficient in a second language. However, that period of time is extended in people who are bilingual such that bilingual people can learn additional languages extraordinarily well, even at older ages. It seems that just being exposed to two languages when you are young makes your brain more flexible for learning languages in general.
    2. The general rule is that the best time to learn an additional language is before age seven but that rule can be broken by lots of different things including bilingual proficiency.
  16. How many minutes do you need to use the Fast ForWord program to get the most benefit?
    1. ELL students, who have average native language skills, should use the products at least thirty minutes, three times a week. For students whose native language skills are not at age level, the minimum is thirty minutes, five times a week. These protocols are appropriate for both the Fast ForWord Language (elementary school students) and the Fast ForWord Literacy (middle or high school students) products and can be completed in anywhere from 12 to 27 weeks based on the abilities of the student and whether the students use the  products thirty minutes for three or five days a week.  Students can also use the products for more minutes each day, and thereby reach completion in fewer weeks.
  17. What do you suggest for Chinese language learners?
    1. There are several centers in China using the Fast ForWord software to help the students learn English.  It’s been found that the students who use the software also improve their Chinese language learning.  The Fast ForWord program improves the students’ memory and general learning skills. These centers use both Fast ForWord software and Reading Assistant software– alternating between the two programs with great success.
    2. Some ELL programs in the US are using the Fast ForWord program three days and the Reading Assistant program two days each week to get the benefit of both programs.
  18. How does a bilingual aide assist with the program?
    1. Aides are often the individuals who administer or oversee the program while the students are working on the products.  The aides can be quite helpful working as coaches for the products.
  19. Is the Reading Assistant program the second level to the Fast ForWord program?
    1. The Reading Assistant program is quite different than the Fast ForWord program.  In the Reading Assistant program, the child is actually reading aloud.
    2. The Fast ForWord program itself consists of the Language/Literacy series and the Reading series. The Language/Literacy series is the auditory teaching of language at the elementary or secondary levels.  For this, there are four products (two for elementary and two for secondary).  Then, in the Reading series, there are six products that involve activities such as matching letters to sounds, learning how to decode or sound out words, learning how to comprehend different grammatical forms, and silent reading.
    3. The Reading Assistant program provides the child the opportunity to actually practice oral reading.   It is called Reading Assistant because there is a tutor inside the computer that listens to the students and corrects them if they make a mistake.
  20. If a child starts in the Reading Assistant program at the first grade level, does it adjust to match the student’s level as he/she does the activity?
    1. The Reading Assistant program has many different levels of difficulty, becoming more difficult as students progress.  In order to use the software, students must be able to correctly read at least 25 words per minute, which corresponds to a mid-first grade reading level.  However, difficulty ranges up through high school with four content packs that align with the interest and content material for the corresponding grade levels:  K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12. 
    2. Not all students start at the same level.  Teachers can select the appropriate level of reading for each student, or students can take the Reading Progress Indicator assessment and be automatically placed in to the appropriate level of the Reading Assistant program.